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Okay, so this is just an idea that I’ve had and have become really interested as to whether it would work.

So it would be an octagon shaped enclosure to resemble a kind of tropical Amazonian ecosystem which is approximately 440 square feet, all sides approximately 9 ft in length. It would have 7 sides with large glass or acrylic windows to be able to see into the enclosure and one side will have a door to enter the enclosure. The door will lead you onto a small bridge to cross a stream like moat leading to a centre island.

The centre island would be approximately 50 square feet featuring tropical plants (some of which would be bromeliads), driftwood, rocks and a tree (maybe around 10ft tall.) This tree could either be a live tree full of green leaves and maybe even fruit or just the wood part of the tree to be able to see the animals easier and create basking spots, whichever is more practical. This “island” could be surrounded by rocks and driftwood to hide the barrier between the land area and water area. This barrier could prevent waterlogging plant roots and soil/substrate from the land falling into the water?

The water, which would be 1 meter deep and approximately 9500 gallons, could resemble an Amazonian river or stream with large pieces of driftwood, a variety of plants and a variety of colourful fish with some species cleaning it. However I would have the water be as clear as possible rather than have tannins in the water to allow for better viewing of the fish and other semi-aquatic inhabitants. This could maybe be achieved by completely soaking the driftwood or using other methods to reduce the amount of tannins that it leaches into the water.

The idea would be that maybe an octagon shaped house could be built around the enclosure allowing viewing from almost every room and the one side where the door is, the room could be used as a maintenance room for the enclosure. This house would have a second floor which would only contain a narrow balcony which surrounds the enclosure to allow for extra viewing and interaction with one of the species which could inhabit the enclosure. This would be accessible via a staircase leading up to this floor.

One of the main species that would feature in this enclosure would be a pair of Scarlet Macaws (preferably an adopted pair which would already be bonded with each other.) The bond between them would mean that they wouldn’t feel the need to call for their owner as much as they would have each other? Also, I could try to get a pair which are not as noisy and screaming all the time as this maybe could scare the other animals in the enclosure (if the other animals can actually hear that is.) The macaws could use the tree as a perch with different sized branches for their feet, also if the tree is a fruit tree then the macaws could eat the fruits that grow. The macaws would be fed from the balcony on the second floor and potentially sleep there in a cage (left open) so they can have a more comfortable place to sleep. I think the macaws would be a good species for this habitat as they are very energetic and intelligent and it would be fascinating to see how they interact with an environment like this. Maybe there would even be enough room for them to fly inside the enclosure for exercise. The only worry could be the glass and whether they would fly into it, and if so how low the glass panels should be to be safe for the parrot. A rain system can be used to mimic the rainfall of the Amazon, giving the macaws a “shower” each day like they would in the wild.

The second species I think would be suitable for this enclosure would be a Caiman Lizard. Judging by the size, name and look of this lizard, it appears to be an animal to avoid. However, this lizard has been cohabited with many other animals due to their unusual diet almost completely specific to aquatic snails. One of the reasons why I think this animal could be suitable for this enclosure could be its striking colours, scales and size reaching up to 5 ft, however I would only put one female in an enclosure like this as they only typically grow to around 4ft. Also, this lizard would use the entire enclosure as they are semi-aquatic and arboreal. As they focus their diet on aquatic snails, I could maybe put some of these snails in the water so you could watch the lizard swim and hunt for its food in the water. However, I would have to ensure that these snails are parasite free as this is supposedly a problem with feeding these lizards live foods. A lot of training and taming would also have to happen before the lizard could be introduced into the enclosure as they have been known to be somewhat aggressive if not worked with. Furthermore, I would have to ensure the caiman lizard is captive bred so not to introduce any parasites or diseases into the enclosure. Due to the arboreal nature of the caiman lizard, they would often be in the same vicinity as the macaws, this is more of a potential problem as the macaws could be spooked by the lizard. To combat this, the macaws could simply fly away onto the balcony and into the cage. I would provide basking spots on the branches of the trees containing UVA and UVB at around 100°F.

The 3rd species which could go in this enclosure could be a spotted turtle. The aquatic nature of this turtle and being able to see it swim underwater. Also, I have read that these turtles can be kept together so maybe a small group of females (not males as they would fight.) I would provide basking spots, which would be around 90 - 95°F, containing UVB on some of the hardscape which separates the water and land and ensure that it would be easily accessible. Driftwood could be positioned on the barrier to allow the turtles to easily exit the water. From what I have read, these turtles aren't supposed to eat fish, is this true? If not, are there any other turtles which don't eat fish?

The two final species I think would be suitable for this enclosure would be a group of red eyed tree frogs and a group of tomato frogs. I think these species would help achieve the sense of ecosystem in the enclosure as I believe the red eyed tree frogs are often associated with the amazon rainforest. Also these frogs could help control the population of the “clean up crew”. Bromeliads would be planted in the land area so the frogs can soak in them rather than the main water area.

The spotted turtle, the red eyed tree frogs and the tomato frog are all insectivorous, would it be easier to just have different feeding stations around the land area which can be filled with live food to prevent a population explosion of feeder insects and worms in the enclosure? Or are there other types of insects or worms which would be a suitable and more realistic food source which won't explode in population and the insectivorous can hunt them like they would in the wild?

I try to keep the ambient temperature 80 - 82°F using reptile/bird safe, waterproof heaters. And a thermostat can be used to control this. This temperature would also increase the temperature of the water as well. However this would not make the water 80 - 82°F as some heat from the water would be lost via evaporation. I would aim for a water temperature around 77 - 80 °F as I feel like this would suit most species of fish as well as aquatic reptiles. To try and maintain this temperature I could use a pond heater to raise the temperature. If the temperature got too hot in the summer months, fans at the top of the enclosure could be turned on to remove some of the hot air. The evaporation from the water would raise the humidity as well as a rain system and to decrease the humidity then the fans could be turned on. I would aim to maintain the humidity between 65% and 80% as this suits the needs of the species in the enclosure.

I would use full spectrum LED light panels at the top of the aquarium to provide the plants with energy to photosynthesise and grow and also to provide a day and night cycle for the nocturnal and diurnal animals in the habitat.

To minimise interspecific competition within the enclosure by providing multiple basking spots, caves/hides and feeding locations.

I know that cohabitation is very controversial but I believe it could work as all of the different species’ needs would be fulfilled, only captive bred animals would be used to minimize disease transmission and I would quarantine each animal before it went into the enclosure, like you would when introducing new fish into a fish tank. Also none of the species resemble the natural predators of any of the animals in the enclosure, do you think this would make them less likely to stress each other out?

Are there any species you would recommend?

Are there any species you wouldn't recommend?

What fish would you recommend? I was thinking along the lines of large schools of smaller peaceful fish like tetras. But maybe some larger fish like discus or angelfish but I've heard there are some issues associated with them regarding water parameters with the discus and aggression with the angelfish

Do you think this would work?
 

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Fascinating plan - the only thing I can offer, from experience, is that both the caiman and the macaws will kill and eat all the other reptiles and amphibians. And very likely the caiman will go after the birds when it is big enough. Your info on the caiman’s diet of strictly snails is erroneous.
 

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Agreed on starting from a 50 gallon first...

I think this could go well at MonsterFishKeepers honestly. At the same time....I think you'd best consult a zookeeper about this. Specifically, somebody who has studied tropical ornithology, somebody who has studied tropical herpetology, and then us. Maybe somebody who has studied tropical botany as well. AND PAY THEM (zoo jobs do not pay well. at all.) We're not well equipped to talk about birds and trees tbh. Also go visit zoos and aquariums.

That being said: look into macaws. Actually research their needs and dig deep into bird keeping forums and groups. If you cannot give them the care that they need without the giant enclosure, I don't think they're the right bird for this exhibit. Are they beautiful birds? Of course! But they're smart, and still interact with keepers or teams of keepers daily. Also those beaks are wicked. I would be cautious about them having psychotic breaks if they don't have enough stimulation and "toying" with the frogs.

Frogs: I don't know them. I don't talk about them. Would you even be able to see them in an octagonal enclosure as small as that? Imagine how many fruit flies that is, and how you would need to keep the birds out of it.

Turtle: Ask a herpetologist.

Fish: Depends. It sounds like you're wanting some sort of clear biotope that's found in the Amazon. Those are hard to find. Off the top of my head, angelfish and livebearers (mollies, guppies, swordtails, etc.) are typically touted as fish to keep. I would stray far far away from arowanas and other large top dwelling fish (you would hate for your macaws to die due to a large predatory fish leaping out of hte water). ALthough stingrays may make an interesting look, as would severums and leporinus.

Bump: Personally, if you really want macaws, I would recommend having some sort of partition between the second and first floors, and keep the birds in the second floor and the pond below. Things might work out far better.

Another thing to keep note of, is bird waste. And herp waste. That's all going to find itself in the water. You're going to need sand filters at the very least.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you all for your amazing input. From all i had read/watched, the caiman lizard was perceived as a much more docile lizard! Are there any other lizards thhat would be better suited. And maybe any that would not go for macaws? Do you believe this is too unlikely a scenario with any species mixing with the macaws?
 

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I wish I had your budget! What you're talking about here is a million dollar biotope, and will be a full time job.
 

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Thank you all for your amazing input. From all i had read/watched, the caiman lizard was perceived as a much more docile lizard! Are there any other lizards thhat would be better suited. And maybe any that would not go for macaws? Do you believe this is too unlikely a scenario with any species mixing with the macaws?
Iguanas *probably* won’t go after your fish, birds and other reptiles, but the macaws could easily kill and eat them when they are small. Caiman Lizards are docile towards people, but they are still predatory carnivores! In the wild they may eat only smaller prey items, but enclosed in a zoo setting the other inhabitants would not be safe.

I agree that for a project of this scope you need some professional advice on the many different levels.
 

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So some of the channels I follow on youtube are Clint's Reptiles, as well as Snake Discovery. Like a majority of petcare channels, they tend to give the very basics (here's how big of an enclosure, how much you'll probably spend, availability, etc.). I could have sworn Clint's Reptiles did a caiman lizard profile the other day.

Also, I think there's a bit of a difference here regarding the caiman lizard:
A Caiman lizard != a caiman "crocodile".
Caiman lizard = Dracaena guianensis
actual caimans = subfamily Caimaninae. I would hope OP does not want to buy an actual caiman.

I repeat my concerns about macaws going psychotic and "playing" with the herps in the enclosure. There're also concerns that the macaws will go after the various herp's diets which could be harmful in the long run.

Bump: Ah, and speaking of aquatic snails: bladder snails are small but breed prolifically; other snails to think about include mystery snails (they're large), and ramshorn snails. It may be worth your while to get the lizard on a prepared diet and offer live feeds as enrichment.
 
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